Apple's Presentation of OS X El Capitan Was Spot On

Apple had a lot of things to present at the 2015 WWDC Keynote. And so it was no great dramatic loss that Apple did exactly the right thing with the next version of OS X, El Capitan. The focus will be on the user experience and performance improvements. The restraint exhibited took a lot of courage.


The OS X section of the 2015 WWDC Keynote was exactly what I was hoping for. And I am quite amazed because I feared that Apple might might have gotten into a rut with extravagant new features in each new OS X release and might have lost sight of needed user experience fix-ups and other issues with Yosemite.

On May 29, I wrote: "Hope Springs Eternal: a New Approach to OS X at WWDC."

Will Apple surprise and delight us with a newfound introspection about its devotion to the user experience? Or will the company settle for yet another rollout of snazzy features that demo well but don't get used in the long run?

Apple, for an amazingly large company with corresponding ambitions did, in fact, decide to focus on the experience and performance. That's probably why the name chosen was El Capitan, a rock formation. The notion of a more rock solid foundation with the context of Yosemite is perfect. The next OS after El Capitan will be soon enough to merit a whole new location, like Mojave.

"Refinements" is the word I'm searching for, and that's the perfect word used by Jeff Gamet this afternoon. "Apple Unveils OS X El Capitan with Loads of Refinements."

Image credit: Apple

Here are some of my observations.

Spotlight. Apple is continuing to make the Spotlight feature a nexus for handy information such that one doesn't need to explicitly go to Google. It has the side effect, interestingly, of doing the opposite of iOS. In iOS, we have an app for everything. In OS X, we have special, powerful apps. But for small-scale knowledge lookup, all we need is Spotlight. Fascinating.

Image credit: Apple

Window Management. As OS X becomes more portable, for example, the new MacBook, El Capitan has to be smarter and easier to use when it comes to window management. I especially liked the ability to have a split screen, with an app on one side and a display of other selectable windows on the other. This will help a lot on the smaller 11- and 12-inch MacBooks. Mission control, much in need of a UI fix-up, will be easier and more intuitive.

Image credit: Apple

Metal. Apple has incorporated the Metal technology of iOS into El Capitan. Here's what Apple said today.

Metal, Apple’s groundbreaking graphics technology, accelerates Core Animation and Core Graphics to boost system-level rendering by up to 50 percent, and efficiency by up to 40 percent, resulting in faster graphics performance for everyday apps. Metal also takes full advantage of your CPU and GPU, delivering up to 10 times faster draw call performance for a richer, more fluid experience in games and pro apps.

Image credit: Apple

Find the Cursor! We've all jiggled the mouse on a Mac, trying to find the cursor, especially when a large display is attached—or multiple large displays. Now that jiggle translates into an automatically magnified cursor so you can see where it is. Brilliant. 

Safari gains pinned tabs, and that's nice, but it's something that Firefox, my favorite browser, has had for a very long time. Brilliant, however, is the ability to isolate the tab that has that annoying audio—and squash it.

All in all, the feature list for El Capitan is short and sweet. This will probably be a good release to consider for a clean install and a fresh start. I know that's what I'm going to do, and I expect a clean install to eliminate some annoyances that have built up for me over the years.

This El Capitan presentation by Craig Federighi demonstrates that when the chips are down, Apple can listen. There's great excitement in some other areas when warranted, like Apple Music, but there's still great discipline with OS X when warranted. And While Yosemite has some useful integration with iOS, El Capitan is neither going hog wild with additional efforts nor trying to be more like iOS. W00t!

I cannot fully express how pleased I am with the state of OS X, El Capitan and Apple's handling of it in the WWDC keynote.